Depression is experienced by about 40% of the U.S. population and for many of us it is an understandable response to a situation, it lasts only a limited period of time, and it is bearable.   However, I have seen and helped many people for whom depression has become more of a burden than they want to carry.  What I want to emphasize is that depression is treatable.

Understanding Depression

Depression is a mood characterized by varying degrees of sadness, disappointment, loneliness, hopelessness, self-doubt, and guilt. These feelings can be quite intense and may persist long periods of time. Daily activities may become significantly more difficult. If the depressed person also suffers from periods of mania, the disorder may be bipolar in nature.

Depression can affect almost every aspect of your life. It affects people of all ages, income, race, and cultures. Depression can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, the way one think about things, and the way you interact with others. While we all feel depression at various appropriate times in our lives, excess or inappropriate depression cannot be easily dismissed or wished away.

The cause(s) of depression are likely to be different for different people. Sometimes a depressive episode can appear to come out of nowhere at a time when everything seems to be going fine. Other times, depression may be directly related to a significant event in our lives such as losing a loved one, experiencing trauma, or battling a chronic illness.

Changes in the body's chemistry influence mood and thought processes, and biological factors contribute to some cases of depression. Sometimes the circumstances involved in depression are ones over which an individual has little or no control. At other times, however, depression occurs when people are unable to see that they actually have choices and can bring about change in their lives.

Medical illnesses such as stroke, a heart attack, cancer, and hormonal disorders can cause depressive illness as can a serious loss, difficult relationship, financial problem, or any stressful change in life patterns. Other more subtle factors that lead to a loss of identity or self-esteem may also contribute. The causes of depression are not always immediately apparent, so the disorder requires careful evaluation and diagnosis by a trained mental health professional. Very often, a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is involved in the onset of depression.

Women experience depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression. Factors such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause can all trigger depression.

Although men are less likely to suffer from depression than women, three to four million men in the United States are affected by the illness. Men are less likely to admit to depression. Depression in men is often masked by alcohol or drugs, or by the socially acceptable habit of working excessively long hours. Depression typically shows up in men not as feeling hopeless and helpless, but as being irritable, angry, and discouraged.

Depression in the elderly is an increasing area of concern. Depression in the elderly can cause needless suffering for the family and for the individual. Old age itself does not cause depression, and there is no reason for the elderly to accept depression as a part of their life.

Treatment of Depression

Although depression is highly responsive to treatment, there are many suffers who do not seek help because in their current depressed state they do not think anything will help or they see their depression as a sign of weakness rather than as a sign that something is not in balance.

A depressive disorder involves the body, emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Without the proper help and treatment, depression can last for months or years. Treatments such as antidepressant medications and psychotherapy can reduce and sometimes eliminate the symptoms of depression.

I have helped my clients to learn to recognize their patterns of depression and develop more effective ways to cope with them. Through traditional psychotherapy, Reality Therapy, and Cognitive Therapy I provide clients the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes.  Some clients find it helpful to combine their therapy with anti-depressant medication prescribed by their physician. 

Ultimately the success of treatment depends the match between you and your therapist, your motivation to change, and on factors such as the type of depression, its severity, and how long you have had problems with depression.

Additional Information

For more information about depression and other mental health problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.

Psychology info on depression
National Mental Health Association
National Institutes of Health regarding depression

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